#Cats-a-Pulting to Fame

If you have perused Facebook, Instagram or Twitter recently, you must have encountered a funny photo or video featuring a feline.

Cat videos and photos are the new social media standards. In recent weeks, it was hard to miss a video showing a tabby cat coming to a young boy’s rescue during a dog attack. As is clear in this clip, a neighbor dog knocked the kid off his trike, and the family cat rushed onto the scene and ferociously chased the canine away.

Together, seven YouTube videos presenting the same security-camera footage of this event have, as of this morning, attracted more than 7.5 MILLION views.

Today Show and ABC News clips featuring the family talking about the rescue have charted an additional three million views.

However, this cat’s sudden celebrity is not an anomaly.

Girls and KittenAccording to the British mobile network Three, while social networking users post about 1.4 million “selflies” a day, more than 3.8 online photos, videos and memes featuring felines appear daily.

What’s more, Three claims, at least 350,000 cat owners have set up Facebook, Instagram or Facebook sites for their pets.

“Sorry, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna,” a blog post about this study begins, “but we British web users are more interested in sharing pictures of our cats than images of your bums.”

It seems the public’s appetite for all things feline continues to grow by leaps and bounds. I’m thinking it’s time my own cat, Pumpkin, gets his day in the sun.

A few months ago, Marie Claire magazine introduced me to “Seven Cats Who Have More Followers Than You on Instagram.” To be clear, I am certain that MILLIONS of cats have more followers than the 60 I count on Instagram.

Years ago, friends who know me as a Francophile told me about Henri, the Existential Cat. I became enamored with this “chat noir,” who in his first video states, “My thumbs are not opposable. Yet I oppose everything.”

A quick Internet search will link you to Henri’s Twitter page (28.2 million followers) and several of his (or, rather, owner Will Braden’s) videos, which have attracted tens of millions of views.

In recent years, Henri’s stardom has been eclipsed by several others, including Grumpy Cat, a two-year-old, permanently scowling female (formally named Tardar Sauce), who listed as a “Public Figure” on The Official Grumpy Cat Facebook site.

Another rising star is the adorable Scottish Fold cat Maru, who, according to the blog “Cutest Paw,” has a series of Japanese videos that have been viewed more than 200 million times.

Yesterday, several Facebook friends linked to a Friskies cat food ad, which imagines a conversation between an established house cat and a newly arrived kitten.

I ask you, what’s not to love?

While I was growing up, and for the first 15 years of marriage, my family was 100 percent cat-centric. When my kids begged for a dog, I would engage in discussions about why cats are superior and make better pets.

Cats are quiet, independent and loving, I stated. They cost less to feed and maintain. They’re smarted than dogs. If necessary, they huntPumpkin on lap 10-11 for their own food and, perhaps most important, they cover up their own poop. Our cat hasn’t used a litter box since he was a tiny kitten.

My kids know I love them fully and unconditionally, to the moon and back. However, they know that I love my cat, too, and understand that when I say I love Pumpkin “just a little bit more,” I’m only 90 percent joking.

When he was in fifth grade, my oldest son was assigned a research report about his favorite pet. He chose to write about a dog. So, we looked through books and internet sites, and came up with the perfect canine for our family, a Bernese Mountain dog. He wrote as if we owned one.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready to take the plunge. “Let’s wait until your sister is old enough to stay home alone when I walk the dog,” I said.

Finally, when Son #1 was mid-way through high school, he threatened, “If you wait to get a dog until I leave for college, I will never forgive you.”

Not long after, after dropping that son at school one morning, a woman driving down a hill ran a stop sign and T-boned the SUV that contained me and the other three children. We rolled three times and finally came to a stop against a fence, with the driver’s side against the ground.

Miraculously, although the car was totaled, the human passengers were completely intact.

I gained a new perspective on life, and decided to stop saying “No” so much. The next weekend, we acquired a dog through the football team auction.

Five years later, that adorable, 90-pound Golden-doodle holds a prominent place in our household, along with his beloved, younger “brother,” which we purchased at a Young Life auction three years later.

My dogs are loveable and loyal. They are happy with one good walk each day, which gets me outside, exercising, even during Seattle’s darkest, rainiest days. They follow me from room to room, keep my feet warm (as I write, they both are lying peacefully under my desk), are game for any activity and never talk back.

Bauer Bimmer and donutsHowever, they are sneaky and steal any food that is left out. They especially love donuts…as do the rest of us.

Which brings me to this morning’s drama. I awoke to the sound of my husband stomping around the kitchen, sighing, running water and clattering pans.

When I went downstairs to see what was the matter, he told me he was cleaning up the mess one or both of the dogs had created during the night. Oozing and brown, in several spots on floors, carpets and doors…well, you get the picture.

It turns out the dogs felt left out of our “National Donut Day” celebration on Friday. Late yesterday, they found the box containing the remaining six donuts. Apparently, the maple bars didn’t sit well.

So, as of this morning, it’s still Advantage Pumpkin.

– Linda Williams Rorem, Permission Slips, 9 June 2014
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Husbands and Fathers in Pink Tutus

I can’t imagine my husband or three sons strutting about in pink tutus, but then again, I’m not sure anyone imagines that breast cancer will impact their family.

So far (knock wood), that particular cancer has not touched our clan.

Nevertheless, most years I choose to join thousands of runners in the Race for the Cure, which raises funds for the breast cancer awareness and research activities of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Yesterday was no exception.

RFTC pink moustacheAnd as I neared the site of the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, with the Jetson’s-like Space Needle in view, I couldn’t help noticing that each year the race seems to attract more men…in pink tutus.

As Martha would say, this is “a good thing.”

I can’t recall how many runners joined me in New York’s Central Park for my first Race for the Cure, back in 1991, but I don’t remember seeing many men or much pink. In fact, that race was where the Komen Foundation, which held its first race in Texas back in 1983, debuted its iconic pink ribbon.

Here in Seattle, for several years our local lacrosse team encouraged players and their families to sign up for the RTFC as a group. I distinctly remember when our group’s top finisher was a high schooler whose mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. He didn’t don a tutu, but he certainly ran for a reason.

Yesterday, apparently about 6,000 of the 8,000 participants in Seattle’sRFTC tutus and carriage
RFTC events ran or walked for a reason, too. According to the Komen Foundation, three-fourths of those who participate in RFTC events – something like 1.6 million people in 150 cities around the world – have survived breast cancer or have a close friend or family member impacted by the disease.

At the Seattle Center, I saw very fit runners in short shorts and tiny singlets, competing for  medals and personal-best times. I also saw red-faced, sweat-drenched athletes who had not trained adequately for the event, and slow, but smiling, walkers of all ages and shapes.

I spotted elderly and ailing people in wheelchairs, kids in strollers and wagons, babies in backpacks and women from all “walks of life” wearing “survivor” shirts and scarves over their hairless heads.

Groups of runners and walkers gathered in coordinated outfits, such as tutus and feather boas and funny hats, with signs on their backs naming the women they were honoring.

Yesterday, instead of focusing on my 5K time, I took note of the diverse crowd, smiled at the survivors, chuckled at the costumes, cheered for the children and felt compassion for those who had lost loved ones.

I headed back home feeling happy that we humans value, and gather strength from, community.

-Linda Williams Rorem, Permission Slips, 2 June 2014
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Guilt and the Modern Mother’s Day

I can’t help thinking Anna Jarvis would be proud.

Yesterday, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were flooded with meaningful posts and photographs commemorating mothers of all ages.

Many of us felt joy seeing photos showing generations of hard-working moms grouped together, younger versions of moms whose minds or bodies have suffered and tributes to those who have left us too soon.

blog - Justin mother's dayYesterday the nation’s 85 million mothers – as well as their children and spouses — celebrated the fruits of Anna Jarvis’ labors. Jarvis, a native of Webster, WV, is considered the driving force behind Mother’s Day’s founding 100 years ago.

The tenth of 13 children born to Granville and Ann Jarvis, Anna gained inspiration from her mother as she embarked on a meaningful career, and cared for her mom in her later years.

Her idea for giving mothers their day in the sun came to fruition when Jarvis was nearly 60 years old, as President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Mother’s Day.

Yes, the holiday has been over-commercialized, and many of us cringe at the sappy TV commercials, the endless racks of greeting cards and the bountiful, over-priced displays of chocolates and flowers.

Jarvis experienced the beginnings of this commercialization, and, according to the book Women Who Made a Difference, once stated that “a printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself.”

I hope Permission Slips readers were able to convey and receive meaningful messages yesterday. Most important, I hope you treasured the teacher-led classroom projects, the hand-written cards, the texts, voicemails and electronic tributes. (Pictured here is a Mother’s Day painting from my second son, a dozen years ago. It still hangs in my office.)

And, finally, I give you mothers permission to continue to struggle with this lifelong, confusing, contradictory, overwhelming and incredibly rewarding job. In my opinion, this conundrum is best explained by the esteemed essayist Anna Quindlen, who gives mothers permission to accept their imperfections and mistakes. I, for one, take solace in these words.

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 12 May 2014
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I Walk in My Mother’s Socks

Note: Permission Slips is grateful to present this guest post by Lisa Bell Pachnos, a Chicago-area native, Northwestern University graduate and mother of three in New Jersey. She wrote this in August 2012, nine months after her mother, Sue Bell, had died. (The photo is of Lisa and Sue.)

Towards the middle of her life, my mother became a fitness freak. Beforehand, when I was a child, she told me that she rarely gave a thought to exercise. “My legs were just there to hold up the rest of my body,” she told me on a day when I had complimented her on the muscles that were now bulging from her calves.

blog - lisa and momOnce she began an exercise regimen, my mother was remarkable in her dedication. She rose before dawn most days and drove herself to the fitness center. Or, on days when she elected to stay at home, she could be found in the basement lifting weights, rolling on an exercise ball, executing complicated lunges or using the elliptical trainer. Even on weekends at Lake Geneva, she worked out with an exercise ball in the living room or took brisk walks around the neighborhood. Amazingly, she could carry on a conversation while in the midst of these exertions.

All of us have a part of ourselves, physically, in which we are disappointed. For my father, it has always been his thighs (a story for another time). For my mother, it was her “tummy.” Try as she might, she could never achieve the six-pack abs that she desired. Years later, it was that awareness of her abdomen that alerted her to the cancer growing inside of her long before it would have been detected by someone less self-aware.

Now, nine months after my mother passed away, I treasure everything that I inherited from her, such as jewelry, clothing, trinkets, and strangely enough, some of her socks. Oddly, it is the socks that I use the most often and that evoke the strongest memories.

Unlike many people, I find summertime extremely challenging. While working from home during the school year has countless benefits, working from home during the summer months creates stress. It’s a constant tug-of-war between the needs of my children and the needs of my workplace. Person time is fleeting at best.

So lately, to carve out that time, I have been donning my mother’s socks and rising during the gray light of dawn. I stride outside in those socks, plus my own sneakers and other clothes, of course, and start walking along our quiet street. Occasionally, I am joined by other two-legged creatures on bikes or on foot. However, I am usually accompanied by critters with four legs or wings.

This quiet time allows me to plan my day, ponder my weaknesses, make notes to myself–which I email to my computer via my phone–and otherwise breathe.

I am grateful for the lessons my mother continues to give to me — even through something as inconsequential as the socks she wore during exercise.

– Lisa Bell Pachnos, for Permission Slips, 28 April 2014
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Doggone It

Many of you read Carol’s recent post announcing her hiatus from Permission Slips blogging (click here if you missed it).

I miss her already, and suspect that our loyal readers do, too.

Blog puppyCarol’s life is very full, raising the new puppy pictured here, managing a family that includes four children, ages 13 – 21, coaching the local high school’s JV girls tennis team, serving as an adviser to several start-up businesses, helping out with her family’s organic farm and playing tennis as often as she can.

I don’t know how she found the time to blog at all.

However, I think Carol enjoyed writing about the world around her. She is much more interested in politics, brain development, local government and sports than I am, and I believe readers enjoyed “hearing” her unique perspectives.

Personally, I liked it best when she wrote from the heart. Some of my favorite “Carol Posts” are listed here (click on the titles to read each post):

Carol and my friendship dates back more than a dozen years. Back then, our children were enrolled in the same Montessori preschool, but it was rare for parents to interact as many were dropping and picking up children on the way to and from work.

In early 2000, Carol’s third child attended my third son’s birthday party at a local play space. She approached me and said, “Everyone keeps telling me we need to get to know each other. I see you’re pregnant with your fourth child [due four months later], and I just found out I’m pregnant with my fourth.”

We immediately understood each other.

Since our kids are roughly the same ages, we started crossing paths more and more – at first-grade basketball games (her daughter was the only girl on the team), T-ball practices, PTA meetings, swim club events and while pushing full carts down supermarket aisles.

Our families became fast friends. After all, who else would invite a family of five or six to dinner?

And then, we started taking “Girlfriend Getaways” together (click here to read about one of our trips). This photo was taken on our Blog carol linda paris2005 trip to Paris, when I had my “mommy braces” (friends from Paris and London are at the photo’s right side).

After our third getaway, in response to friends who kept asking, “How do you do it?” we conceived of a book promoting and explaining the concept.

We attended a publishing conference in New York, secured an agent and met for hours each week to write our book proposal and sample chapters.

While our proposal was well received, publishers told us the timing wasn’t right – in the midst of a depressed economy – for a book about non-essential travel with friends.

So, we retooled our idea several times, and eventually decided to write a blog about frazzled women like us. We fine-tuned the blog’s concept as the time passed, and decided to keep it going as long as we were having fun and had something to say.

Three and a half years later, I’m still not sure where PermissionSlips is headed. We have a stable base of readers, get great feedback (mostly through emails and live conversations, not necessarily in the blog’s comments section) and seem to come up with fresh ideas each week. But I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort to expand the readership or try to turn the posts into a book.

Nevertheless, since I have made a career out of writing, I’m not ready to stop blogging. At the same time, I do get tired of hearing myself “talk” every week, so would really welcome submissions from others. If you’re interested in guest blogging, please let me know. The only requirement? Clear, concise writing that promotes some kind of “permission” (usually relating to the idea, “Give yourself a break.”).

And, please, if you have ideas for future posts, but don’t want to write them yourself, let me know. My goal is to make PermissionSlips as “user-friendly” and interactive as possible, for as long as I have the energy to keep it going.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 21 April 2014
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Don’t Blame Barbie – It’s Disney’s Fault

Like many modern-day moms, I wanted to shield my daughter from Barbie – you know, that lovely teenage-ish doll with Pretty Woman legs, Scarlett O’Hara’s waistline and Dolly Parton’s boobs?

I thought that if I banned that 11.9-inch doll, along with her designer duds, metrosexual boyfriend, convertible car and lavish dream house, I would help my daughter grow up with a more realistic body image and set of expectations for life, wealth and happiness.

What I didn’t realize was that the enemy isn’t Barbie; it’s Disney.

True, researchers have found that Barbie does negatively impact girls’ body image,and a study by the American Psychological Association determined that “early exposure to dolls epitomizing an unrealistically thin body ideal may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.”

However, Barbie isn’t all bad.

In a 2009 Psychology Today article, psychiatrist Susan Albers noted that “in some ways, [Barbie] may have actually helped women to start practicing other roles, besides being a mother, earlier in their life. Barbie could do anything—travel, work, or play. Girls were not trapped into one role as a mother, as was the case when they played with baby dolls.”

I believe the damage from Disney Princesses runs much deeper.

princess dollsIn a recent study, researcher Lauren Gissell determined that “Disney Princess films are, in fact, harmful to women well after they have experienced a childhood immersed in the movies…Women far beyond childhood still cling to finding a prince, having self-esteem problems, wanting a glamorous life and feeling that they are only worthy when their bodies are given attention.

“It could be a reason why women have identity issues since they have plastic surgery, go to tanning beds, wear an immense amount of makeup, constantly go on diets, date younger men, dress provocatively, date guys only with money and have trouble settling with their idea of a prince,” Gissell continues. “Instead of looking at Disney Princesses as role models, women must learn to become comfortable with who they are without comparing themselves to cartoon characters that do not exist or depict what a real woman should be like.”

In her 2006 article “What’s Wrong With Cinderella,” New York Times columnist Peggy Orenstein noted that Disney films promote a quest for “perfection,” which leads to unrealistic expectations, and therefore feelings of failure.

Women like me, from the pre-VCR, pre-10,000-TV-channels age, didn’t grow up with the ubiquitous images of Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora/Sleeping Beauty. Sure, we had fairy tale books and occasionally saw Disney films in the theaters or on TV.  And although the first Disney “princess” film (Snow White) debuted in 1937, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Disney officially took over little girls’ psyches.

That’s when Andy Mooney, head of the Walt Disney Company’s Consumer Products division, envisioned the Disney Princess franchise, which is now  (according to Forbes) valued at some $3 billion worldwide.

princess carWalk through any Wal-Mart, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us or Disney Store, and you’ll see the effects of Mooney’s mission. Shelves upon shelves of pink-themed Disney Princess merchandise call out to kids, including dolls, dress-up clothes, books, DVDs, bicycles, roller skates and even helmets.

This mass marketing appeals to my daughter’s generation, and the impact is obvious.

When Pea was three, I attended the Halloween party at her Montessori school, and saw no less than seven princesses in her small classroom. The fact that these young ladies were of African-American, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and Eastern-European descent was testament to the power of the princess.

So, what’s wrong with wanting to emulate a princess?

The Disney Princess stories seem harmless enough, and many of them are sanitized versions of more gruesome Brothers Grimm tales. However, I think the messaging is detrimenetal to young girls’ self-esteem:

–       If you’re in a jam, wait for a handsome prince to rescue you

–       If you’re a girl, you probably can’t solve problems on your own

–       If you marry a handsome prince, your life will be complete

–       Don’t rely on your family or girlfriends; you need a man in your life

And, the values are off center:

–       If you are beautiful, you need to downplay your looks until it’s time to lure that handsome prince

–       If your parents are strict, it’s okay to sneak out and attend the ball anyway (let me just note, most high-school girls who sneak out at night aren’t hooking up with princes)

But even more disturbing are the messages about family:

–       If your mother dies, be wary of anyone your dad might marry

–       Your stepmother and your step-sisters will most certainly be vengeful and jealous

And what about their girlfiends? Honestly, if I was in a bind, I would call a good friend. Even if they can’t help, they can provide support, encouragement or, when needed, a good shoulder to cry on or a reason to have a few too many cosmos.

So, I would suggest we tell our daughters, or the young women in our lives, to stop waiting for handsome princes to rescue them. Instead, let’s give permission to follow these ideas proposed on WikiHow (and I quote…):

–       Create your own joy and source of fulfillment

–       Quit waiting, start participating

–       Enjoy your friendships

–       Look after your own resources and needs before all else

–       Map out what you really want out of a relationship

–       Remember that Prince Charming comes…after everything else

– Linda Williams Rorem, Permission Slips, 10 Feb. 2014
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Would Deporting Justin Bieber Resolve the Issue?

According to TIME online, nearly 75,000 people have signed a petition urging Obama to deport Justin Bieber. (See the article here.)

While deportation is unlikely, we think our youth do need better role models. See our post No Longer a Bieber Believer.

No Longer a Bieber Believer

Many who watched last night’s Grammy Awards wondered where the Biebs was.

Although the twice-nominated pop star didn’t receive any nods this year, the 19-year-old sensation – who Forbes says earned $58 million in 2012 – could have spent the night cavorting with cronies in the Staples Center.

Instead, just days after his arrest for drag racing, driving under the influence (with an expired license) and resisting arrest, Justin Bieber was spotted in Panama.

Perhaps he was looking for a hat like Pharrell Williams’.

BieberMy 13-year-old daughter, for one, didn’t miss him.  According to a text Pea sent me between classes on Thursday morning – the day news of Bieber’s arrest circulated — she is “officially over the Biebs.”

Oh, how quickly they fall.

Less than a year and a half ago Pea and her friend Smiley were rocking out to JB at the Tacoma Dome. The two had, like thousands of other teenage girls, decorated T-shirts for the occasion, in hopes of being spotted and brought on stage for a serenade.

Now that Pea is no longer a Belieber, I hope she will understand the error in how we elevate, adore and ultimately enable young stars.

On Thursday evening, I was so proud that she noted how Seahawk Richard Sherman, an A student and Stanford graduate, had been vilified for his off-the-cuff, post-playoff-game comments, while Bieber – after all his recent shenanigans – is forgiven as a “misguided youth.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have sons close to JB’s age, so I am all for forgiving youthful transgressions.

The problem is more about boosting young singers, actors and athletes onto pedestals and holding them up as role models, watching – and even helping them – fall from grace, and then allowing them to easily wipe the slate clean and start over.

It seems a well-crafted public apology is all that is needed, and then these so-called heroes are back filling stadiums and making millions. What lessons are learned?

So often, pop stars and superstar athletes seem to gain success over night; make oodles of money; abuse drugs, alcohol and rules of the road; ignore marriage vows; get arrested and then rise again. Apparently the message for our youth is, “Go ahead and mess up. We may stomp on you when you fall, but if you have many millions or a high Q Score, we will help you rise again.”

This only perpetuates the hero-worship problem.

As Lauren James of contactmusic.com recently pointed out, JB has been riding a “personal-image rollercoaster…and has narrowly avoided being severely reprimanded each time, which has boosted the young star’s ego and seemingly given him a sense of invincibility.”

In fact, The Independent reports this morning that the recent charges against Bieber have been dropped, as his lawyers claimed police had “exaggerated” allegations that JB ingested alcohol, pot and prescription drugs before speeding off in a  $260,000 Lamborghini.

When it comes to our sports stars and celebrities, we never tire of second chances.

Yankees slugger Derek Jeter will play again, and is still a rich man. Lance Armstrong fooled us for years, and I see people wearing Livestrong bracelets. As a society, we have contributed to the problems teen-show stars Amanda Bynes, Demi Levato, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus have experienced. And, we always celebrate their resurrections.

The very talented young actress Lindsay Lohan has appeared in court nearly 20 times in the past six years, for offenses including resisting arrest, stealing jewelry and brawling in night clubs, and her jail sentences are always shortened due to “overcrowding.” I can’t even talk about Charlie Sheen, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods or Nicole Ritchie.

Life doesn’t work that way for most of us, and it isn’t helpful for our kids to believe that redemption is that simple.

While I’m all for forgiveness, I think accountability and penance are equally as important. I don’t want my kids to believe it’s that easy to eradicate past problems.

And I want them to idolize people who use their power in positive ways. I want them to gain inspiration from actors and singers who donate their millions to the needy, who spend their time working in soup kitchens instead of bar-hopping in Brazil or shopping on Rodeo Drive. I want my sons to revere athletes who volunteer at inner-city Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations, instead of spending their free time on pleasure yachts and their money on custom sports cars.

So, I’m giving permission for young bucks to look past their money-hungry handlers, and think hard about who they want to be and how they want to use their power. And, I’m urging the rest of us to model the right kind of idol worship.

 –       Linda Williams Rorem, 26 Jan. 2014
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Project Equator: A Family Gap Year – Part I

As a pre-Thanksgiving special we share the story of a family traveling around the world with their five school-age children. We often joke about “living the dream” in reference to some of the more mundane aspects of life such as scrubbing the floors or waiting in a parking lot for soccer practice to end. Cliff and Lisa Sharples are living the real dream. Here is Cliff’s account of their family adventure. The ultimate permission slip.

One wintery day in 2012 at Crystal Mountain, WA, while the kids searched for powder, Lisa and I found ourselves more inspired by hot toddies than cold moguls; beckoned with a warm embrace of the upstairs base lodge bar. It had been a long week, a long month and a long year of stressful work, too much business travel and an endless calendar of games, events and to-dos for all of us. Reminding ourselves of the catch-phrase mantra “be a problem solver, not a problem alerter” we embarked on a decidedly MBAish exercise of writing our Family Mission Statement and Core Values. Both of us are serial entrepreneurs and hopeless MBAs who innately write mission statements, corporate core values and business plans as often as grocery lists. So, why not do that for our most important venture – our family?Sharples family

When we met, Lisa and I just knew our children would be waiting for us in unexpected places. Through the miracle of childbirth, the magic of international adoption and travels across the globe, all five of them found us; forming our unconventional family. As we listed values and beliefs we felt important to imbue in our children, a theme of connection began to emerge: connection with each other; connection with family and friends; connection to community and environment; connection with new ways of learning; connection with the world.

The more we talked, the more we realized that rather than remodeling our circa-1961 vintage kitchen, maybe it was time to invest in our family venture and explore the theme of connection as a family. Realizing that our window of opportunity to have a shared experience with all of our kids, with our oldest son half way through his freshman year in high school, we decided that it was now or never to embark on a project we’d dreamt about for many years. Ever the disrupters, we decided to embark on a global adventure – a gap year for the family, if you will.

After that cozy afternoon, and many hot toddies, life changed pretty dramatically for us. Like any startup, this venture had innumerable tasks and parallel strategies to execute to ultimately be viable. We had to creatively navigate our careers and achieve budget targets. The kids needed a plan for school so they could each drop back into the requisite grade upon our return. We needed a plan for our house, three dogs and two parakeets. An itinerary needed to be agreed upon, and then planned out. Reservations of many types needed to be completed. Medical and dental appointments had to be lined up, including 50 shots between us to inoculate us from the world’s ills… the list went on and on! barcelona

On September 9, 2013, exhausted from an amazingly wonderful and crazy 18 months of planning, saving and scheming, the seven of us boarded a plane for Europe. Now in the heart of Seville, Spain, it’s hard to believe we are almost two and a half months into our adventure. In my next post, I’ll tell you about where we’re headed and how it’s going!

Permission Slips will post part two on Thursday.

Cliff Sharples 

November 18, 2013 permissionslips1@gmail.com

Surviving the Awkward Teen Years

Many of you found that this week’s post (click here if you missed it) revived memories of those awkward middle school years. A loyal Permission Slips reader tipped us off to a fabulous website (featured on Oprah!) in which adults write about how they maneuvered the awkward teen years and blossomed into their current selves. Participants in this “Awkward Years Project” post photos of their confident adult selves holding portraits from their glasses-, braces-, acne- and/or bad hair-riddled middle school years. It’s definitely worth a look; click here or follow this link: http://awkwardyearsproject.com/

By the way, here’s a lovely shot of me and my very cool older sister, when I was about 12 (note the braces, flip-up sunglasses and certainly dirty hair):

JodLindaFlorida 1971

French Notes

notes for French

On Loving Lucy

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